The miserly Canadian

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Canadians, as everyone should know, are tightwads. This is true of Christmas-season giving, but also true in every other season of the year. When it comes to demanding that the government provide more generous health, welfare, housing, and pension benefits, we are not silent; when it comes to “taxing the rich,” we’re gung-ho; but when it comes to our own pockets, or even doing something that costs no money at all, we “gave at the office.”

This is statistically demonstrable. Compared to Americans, our charitable giving, in nicely quantifiable mercenary terms, is embarrassing. And as I am aware from past participation in various cultural enterprises, the same is true there. Americans shell out for art, music, literature and the like in a way that Canadians would find wasteful and reckless; they also give far more to political parties and candidates, thanks to this habit of “putting your money where your mouth is.”

Let me pause here, so my readers may look downcast and feel shame.

There. Enough. Let’s get on with the argument, that follows from, for instance, the most recent Fraser Institute study—their annual “Generosity Index” just released, which makes a broad swatch of these invidious comparisons, based on easily procured and processed numbers for private donations to formally registered charities. Factoid: Manitobans continue to give more, on average, than Canadians in any other province (12th straight year), but even they part with less than one cent from every earned dollar.

I know: the progressive types have seizures whenever the Fraser Institute is mentioned. But it does solid, honest work, within its remit. And one need not be a Fraser flunky to find damning evidence that Canadians are as miserly on behalf of the poor, as we are profligate in consumer borrowing for ourselves. The statistics have been piling up for a long time.

Indeed, I have my own esthetic distaste for the Fraser Institute, as for most number-crunching operations; and its founder, Michael Walker once irritated me profoundly with one of his gratuitous, anti-Christian rants. Also, with a note of advice he once sent me about a literary magazine I happened to be editing, in which he expressed his contempt for poetry, too. I mention this now, because I would dearly like to be spared the letters in which I am typified as a neo-conservative libertarian pro-business troll; when I am in fact a Catholic Christian libertarian troll, with no special sympathy for big business. (And effete, too: don’t forget effete.)

But it is to such numbercrunchers we must refer, for statistical evidence to support two perfectly slam-dunk observations. One is that there is an inverse relationship between tax levels, and the amount of private charitable giving. The higher taxes go, the more people shrug and say, “The government is taking care of it.”

The other is quite pointedly political. The further you go to the Right in the political spectrum, the more people give away their money and time. And vice versa: as you shift Left, private charity dries up.

A magisterial demonstration of this is available from Arthur C. Brooks, in, Who Really Cares (Basic Books, 2006)—and what came as a surprise, even to him, was how dramatically the two camps contrasted. Hypocrisy itself is something statistically demonstrable; and goes deeper than the cause-and-effect of tax loading.

Which is not to apply averages to individuals. I personally know at least one crazy leftist who is extremely generous to what he considers to be good causes. That those causes strike me as not really charitable—for I do not consider agitprop to be a charitable activity—is beside the point. He puts his money where his mouth is.

Each Christmas I recall the words of my late saintly aunt, who played the organ in Calvin United at New Waterford, Cape Breton. Who, out of her tiny churchmouse salary, was at one point supporting at least a dozen named children in the poorest corners of the Third World; and who regularly played gratis at Catholic weddings and funerals, to the scandal of some of her Protestant friends.

“Christ doesn’t look at people the way we do. He sees them inside out. He sees the heart in the foreground, and the mouth only yammering in the background.”

He isn’t much interested in people’s theological opinions, because He knows all about that stuff already. And He isn’t interested in their politics, because that bores Him.

A wonderfully intelligent woman, full of sharp observations that she almost always kept to herself. (Unlike her nephew.) And as selfless as the breeze.

My point would be: we don’t have to wait for Nanny State to collapse, to start giving away what remains of our money. Nor should those who live in penury be abashed, for time is money, and they can give their much-needed time.

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